Written by Editorial Team, DonateToday
Published: Wednesday, 21st March 2018

The OLLIE Foundation offers suicide prevention training to try and ensure that no more young people have to face their feelings alone

When Stuart’s son Morgan died by suicide, the devastated father was moved to try and ensure other parents didn’t have to endure what he did. His charity, The OLLIE Foundation offers various levels of suicide prevention training to enable schools to be better prepared to stop further tragedies occurring.

Distressing

‘If I had just sat there, I would have just cried all day,’ Stuart Falconer admits, discussing the suicide of his son Morgan. ‘I wanted to find out a bit more – I looked up suicide, came across a national charity and started to see some statistics and understand a bit more about what happened.

‘Seven years ago, there had been two suicides in my local community – they would have been 10 and 11 at the time – and my reaction was: “Thank God that wasn’t me.”

‘Before Morgan died, I probably had the idea that talking about it was putting the idea into someone's head, and if you had said to a parent, including me: "We intend to talk to your children about suicide," a lot of them would have said: "Absolutely no way.” 

‘We all want to protect our children, but we prefer not to talk about things that are very serious because we just assume it won’t bother our children – a lot of people are afraid of talking about certain topics because it’s too distressing for them as individuals.’

"A lot of people have come forward who have been touched by their own issues with suicide."

Stuart Falconer

Vulnerable

Stuart’s initial ambitions were modest: a golf day to raise some money for a national charity to facilitate the provision of suicide prevention training for a group of local schools. 

However, with so much empathy for the cause, starting with some parents of Morgan’s school-friends being none too familiar with a golf club, but still wanting to help, the support for Stuart’s cause quickly began to grow. It became apparent that setting up a separate charity to provide suicide-prevention training was the most viable option. Thus, The OLLIE Foundation (One Life Lost is Enough) was born.

‘The more people we talked to, the more we came across that were touched by the personal story,’ he recalls. ‘A lot of people have come forward who have been touched by their own issues with suicide; whether it’s a parent or sibling, friend or associate.

'Whenever someone has to deal with a suicide, there can be so many personal recriminations: "What did I miss? What didn't I say? What should I have said? Why couldn't he say something? Why didn't he say something?" They may start to point the finger at themselves thinking why didn't they do more to help them when they were needed.

'What happens in a year or two, when maybe they're struggling at University? Or their girlfriend dumps them? Or their parents separate? Or their grandparent dies? At that point, they could well become overwhelmed and vulnerable and then understand that suicide becomes an option.'

safeTALK and ASIST

This, Stuart says, is what his charity’s training is based on. ‘For every person that dies, there could be a hundred people affected,’ he explains. ‘I do think that if we don’t talk about suicide then people’s vulnerability is ignored.’

Verity Bramwell is a key person at The OLLIE Foundation and tells us more about the training the charity offers.

Introduced to Stuart through family members who were aware of her passion for promoting mental health and wellbeing among young people, Verity has gone from having casual contact with the charity to volunteering with them to being offered a paid position. 

‘I do quite a lot of everything,’ she says modestly. ‘I make sure the events all run smoothly, I make sure our volunteers who do the marketing and the newsletter have all the information they need, and I deal with the majority of the training enquiries.’

The charity offers two courses: a half-day course called safeTALK and a two-day course called ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training).

‘safeTALK is all about giving people the skills and confidence to have a conversation using the word ‘suicide,’ she explains. ‘And it also talks about invitations or signs – signs that somebody might be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

‘I want to see suicide where divorce and redundancy are now – not considered a taboo subject that people don’t feel that they can’t talk about. 

‘Then there is ASIST which leads on from the half-day course. safeTALK builds up to ask the direct question: “Are you thinking about suicide?” ASIST teaches you what to do if the answer is “yes.”

‘It teaches you how to create an intervention plan to care for that person’s immediately safety. The concept behind it is that the majority of staff have done safeTALK so they all feel confidence in having the conversation then you have a few key members of staff who have done ASIST so young people can be directed to them and have an intervention put in place.’

The OLLIE Foundation is attempting to make sure that no young people have to face their feelings alone. Stock image of model

"You might feel embarrassed to walk up to somebody and ask them something like that but, ultimate, if you're going to save their life, it's something that needs to be done."

Kate Barron

Save Their Life

Kate Barron, a trustee of The OLLIE Foundation, works at a school that has undergone safeTALK training and has also nominated the charity as one of its chosen charities for fundraising projects. 

‘They say that nobody ever wants to kill themselves so there are these little clues that they perhaps offer out to people,’ she explains, ‘And it’s learning to pick up on those clues and having the confidence to ask somebody “are you thinking about suicide?”

‘They do all sorts of different role plays to get you to say that sentence over and over so that you feel more confident saying it to somebody,’ she continues.

While Kate admits that some staff members found elements of the training somewhat shocking, she is under no illusions as to the relevance of it.

‘I have actually had to use it with a student who was really depressed,’ she admits. ‘I asked her if she was thinking of suicide and she burst into tears.

‘The course really gave me the confidence to go and speak to her about it and I was able to signpost her to the different places that were able to help her – it’s a really good thing to do.

‘If you see somebody sitting in a park on their own, looking really sad or crying, have the confidence to go up to them and just start a conversation because it might save their life. 

‘What’s the worst that could happen? You might feel embarrassed to walk up to somebody and ask them something like that but, ultimately, if you’re going to save their life, it’s something that needs to be done.’

More information on The OLLIE Foundation can be found on the charity’s website.